Q: My dog has bad breath, but that's natural, isn't it?

A: Contrary to popular belief, bad breath is not natural for dogs. Like our own teeth, plaque and tar build up on dog's teeth. These bacteria get caught below the gum line and can result in bad breath if their teeth are not brushed regularly. Pay attention to this odor because it can be a sign of periodontal disease in your dog.

Be on the lookout for signs of gum disease. Look out for bleeding or inflammation in your dog's gums and if they show signs of pain while brushing. These may be signs of gum disease and you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. The most common indication of dental pain is lethargy. It is important to regularly examine your dog's teeth, as untreated oral infections could spread to other areas of the body. If you see there is accumulated brown tar in your dog's mouth, they need to have a professional dental cleaning.

Shifting in dog's teeth can be a warning sign of numerous things, such as a fractured root or even a disease that can cause poor bone support. When a tooth breaks and exposes a nerve, it can be very painful for your dog and requires immediate attention. If you notice your dog has loose or broken teeth, a trip to the veterinary dentist is necessary.

Brushing your dog's teeth daily is very important. Use flavored enzymatic toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs and a doggie or child's toothbrush. Brush your dog's teeth as you would your own, focusing extra attention on the gum line.

If your dog is reluctant to have its teeth brushed, start with short sessions. Let your dog lick the brush to start, so it gets used to it and begin to accept the process, working up to more thorough brushing sessions. Giving different flavors of toothpaste to see which one it likes the best can help them get more comfortable with the process. Make sure to reward your pup with a praise and a dental treat to keep it happy and comfortable.

Some dogs are unable or unwilling to have their teeth brushed. Alternatively, look for special dental chews or food/water additives. When looking for dental chews, make sure they are easily digestible and are large enough that your dog must chew them before swallowing. These, as well as food additives, should be given daily. If you are using water additives, be sure to change the water daily. Consult with your veterinarian prior to using these alternatives. If you are not brushing your dog's teeth every day, it is important to have regular dentist visits to monitor signs of dental disease.